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Is weight the best way to measure success with diet and exercise?

How to Measure Success

Measuring ‘Health’ is a multifactorial measure and simplifying it is extremely challenging. Historically measures such as BMI and Body Fat callipers have left a society where a number on the scales reflects both how healthy we are but also how we feel and look at ourselves. Sometimes improving our health is about finding a measure that suits our mental and physical health and takes us away from the scales which have been proven to be an unpredictable measure. 


Other measures of health like those below are all suitable measures but can be more appropriate for different people and different stages of their health journey.


Measure Pro’s Con’s Frequency of Testing
Body Weight
  • Quick and Easy
  • Relatively cheap
  • Compatible with most dietary support systems (apps, groups etc)
  • Hard to stay motivated once Goal has been achieved
  • Can cause unhealthy fixation with numbers
  • Can vary due to hormones, or life circumstances
  • Personal choice
  • Weekly fortnightly or monthly often recommended
  • Some programs suggest daily to promote acceptance of variability.
  • Multiple Points of the body measured,
  • Likely to change with both exercise and dietary
  • Quantitative measure of body composition
  • Takes Time
  • Aesthetically targeted rather than health targeted measure
  • Small changes can be disheartening
  • Minimum Monthly measurements
  • Quick and Easy
  • Historically used
  • General Health Measure
  • Not specific to build/Body shape
  • Does not take body fat versus lean muscle into account
  • Minimum Monthly Measure
Body Fat Percentage
  • Excellent measure of health with pre-calculated health targets, 
  • Quick and easy (with the right equipment)
  • Specialist and more expensive equipment needed
  • Small changes are likely and likely to have a reducing rate of improvement over time
  • Minimum Monthly Measure
Progress Photo
  • Good is Aesthetically motivated
  • Easy and simple to complete and store,
  • Aesthetic base ratchet than a true health measure
  • End of each cycle of program – normally 4-6 weeks but can be longer
Step into Old Clothes
  • Excellent Goal orientated measure
  • Can be a long term motivational tool
  • Assumes previously been leaner than at present
  • Not a measure of health
  • As often as the person wants
  • Results likely more measurable over weeks rather than days
Resting Heart Rate
  • Good measure of overall fitness
  • Easier to measure with current technology – smart watches and phones
  • Not a true measure of health
  • Can be influenced by health conditions
  • Requires challenging aerobic exercise
  • Continuous with the use of smart devices
  • Monthly or regular recordings to chart improvement.


Deciding which measure is the right one is personal, and doesn’t have to remain the same for your entire journey. Choosing the appropriate measure to the appropriate goal is key however as it can be essential as a motivational tool but also a long term one. Healthy changes are not merely about short term fixes to achieve health, but long sustainable lifestyle choices so that health can be sustained for life.

Written by Andrew Livett -Sports and Spinal Physio